Self-love and self-care are two concepts that, with the help of Tiktok, have become more mainstream, sought after and commonly misinterpreted. I won’t lie or pretend like I haven’t fallen into this trap of what self-love or care is supposed to look like—I have.
If you came here searching for a “how to” guide on loving yourself, I’m sorry to disappoint but there’s no such thing. Everyone processes life and themselves differently. What works for me might not work for anyone else. In this post I’m sharing my journey to loving myself and the things that work best for me. I hope that my story will help someone along the way with their own self-love journey.
There’s no roadmap to self-love and unlike what the internet has made it out to be—it’s not this thing you achieve and never have to look at again.
Self-love, to me, is constantly showing up for yourself even when you don’t want to because you know at the end of the day no one will be there for you 100% of the time like you. Self-love is choosing yourself and your happiness every waking moment of your life. Self-love looks different every day—it’s not a race to the finish line because there is no finish line.
Learning To Love Yourself: A Vulnerable Story How I Found Self Love
Within my circle of friends and peers, I’m known as a huge advocate for self-love and self-confidence. There’s truly not a day that goes by where I don’t hype someone up or remind them of their worth. It’s something that I take the time out of my day to do because I know how much better a day can become with some support and validation.
I’ve even written a whole post about the history of beauty standards and ranted about fatphobia just so I can try to understand where this self-hatred people feel about their body comes from. Spoiler alert: men.
However a common series of questions I’ve been getting for a few years now ranges from “how do I get the self-love you have?” to “how do I become as confident as you?” It’s not like I don’t have answers for these questions, it’s just my answers aren’t what anyone wants to hear.
My journey to this place of self-love stemmed from just wanting to accept myself. I constantly compared myself to others whether it be friends I know or people on Instagram I follow. These constant comparisons left me in a state of self-hatred and wondering what was wrong with me because I didn’t look like that.
Everyone in my life ranging from my parents to my best friend, even random people my family knew, constantly reminded me of my beauty. The truth of the matter is—it didn’t matter how many people told me because I didn’t see my own beauty and worth.
A Deep Dive Into The Past
These next few paragraphs are going to sound like a therapy session into my deepest and darkest parts of me. However to truly understand me and my journey to self-love, some things must be discussed. Even the ones that leave me vulnerable and open to criticism.
I’ve pushed and blocked out much of my adolescence, meaning my memory is hazy during that time in my life. Mixing that with my incessant need to invalidate my own experiences and traumas leads us to forgetting a lot of things about who I was before this radical self-love Kerasa.
I convinced myself that my story was just me waking up one day and saying, “I love myself.” Due to both the memory problems and self-invalidation, I actually completely forgot how much I genuinely hated myself and my body until these past few weeks.
I graduated college in 2020 but because of the pandemic I couldn’t celebrate or even take graduation photos. My best friend, Samantha Laurey, who also happens to be an amazing photographer, offered to take my pictures which I graciously accepted. The date was set, I had about a week to choose my outfit and decide how I wanted to wear my hair—I was prepared for a whole week of indecisiveness.
I decided to go through my closet and see if there was anything I could wear for the photoshoot. What I didn’t expect to come across in the back of my closet was my high school graduation dress. At first, I didn’t think much of it, it was just the dress I wore to graduation.
As I proceeded to try it on to see if it would match my Greek flag stole that I got for my college graduation, I noticed that it fit me. In addition to that, it was big on me. This prompted me to look at the size of the dress, which coincidentally is the same moment my heart sank to the pit of my stomach reminding me what I thought of myself five years ago.
On the back it read “2X” in some really cute block letters. Just to clarify, nothing is wrong with wearing a 2X—it’s just not the size I was when I was 17. When I was that age, I was a size 16, according to Torrid. Torrid was my holy grail as it actively carried clothes my size and was the epitome of size-inclusive fashion brands.
According to Torrid’s size chart, 2X is a size 18-20 while a size 16 is 1X. I understand it’s only a difference of 2 or 4. However, that difference is enough for me, at my current size of 18-20, to sit here and have enough space for one of my arms to fit comfortably in the dress.
When I was 17, I was convinced that the dress was tight on me when in reality it wasn’t—I saw myself as bigger than I actually was. This allowed me to remember that my self-hatred didn’t just get up and walk away overnight. It took a few years for me to move past how big I previously saw myself.
I ended up wearing a black dress and the pictures turned out amazing. Yet, even during the photoshoot, I felt uncomfortable. I was left constantly wondering if the dress I was wearing was too short or revealing. There were a lot of fashion rules society placed upon me when it came to what plus-size bodies could wear.
Fatphobia is instilled in all of us
A quick search on Google today tells women it’s okay to wear tight clothes and that they can wear patterns. I’m so happy that these “do and don’ts” for plus-size fashion aren’t fatphobic or telling women they need to change to be beautiful. That wasn’t always the case though.
I have t-shirts from high school that are 3XL, which I thought genuinely weren’t going to fit me in a few months after purchasing. Most of my clothes are oversized because people close to me would tell me that I shouldn’t be wearing “revealing” clothes. I remember heavily relying on those “body fruit shape” charts to determine what looked right on my body.
As you can imagine, comparing your body to a fruit doesn’t always lead you to the best self-image of yourself. I look back at photos of younger me and remember how I felt in that exact moment. All of the thoughts I had when that photo was being taken flood back to me. I wasn’t born with this constant self-criticism though.
Since the age of 7, these comments that I received and believed led me down a dark path. I found a note, a few years ago, that I wrote to myself that read, “skip dinner if you can.” While I personally will not be discussing eating disorders in this article, Whimsy Writer, Sarah has written an article about her experience with eating disorders.
I still deal with a lot of internalized fatphobia. I’ve been anxious about getting my hair cut shorter because I’m scared I’ll somehow look fatter. I waited until after my graduation photos were taken for me to get this haircut. I waited for a whole year just to end up cutting it and loving it. It’s the first time my hair has ever been this short and the first time I actually felt a soul-changing difference.
Self-Love Has No Time Frame
I’ve been actively fighting against and discussing fatphobia for a few years now. I’m by no means an expert in this topic. I am constantly learning and unlearning a lot of the things that have been forced upon me since birth.
It’s important to mention that many people seem to think that their self-love journey and their unlearning of toxic thought patterns has a time frame—it doesn’t. What matters and is most important is that you take the first step to be a better person. No one, not even me, can tell you what to do—except maybe a licensed professional.
After exposing some of my most traumatic memories, I believe now’s a good time to discuss what I have done to move past this internalized fatphobia and get to this place of genuine self-love for myself. As I said in the beginning of this article, what works for me might not work for anyone else.
Inner Child Healing
A big part of what started me on this self-love journey was spirituality. It wasn’t until my father died back in March 2020 when I started to have a daily ritual. I would sit down for an hour journaling and just talking out loud to my dad.
I guess you can say speaking out loud to my dead dad unlocked something in my brain. It allowed me to see the world in a different way. I was forced to choose to heal and grieve his death or be entirely consumed by it.
While I started this article talking about how Tiktok misses the mark on self-love, I’ll give credit where it’s due. There are a lot of content creators out there that helped me sit with these uncomfortable feelings I was having. I never took note of their usernames because they were genuinely just random faces the algorithm would send my way. I am grateful for their presence every single day however.
Tiktok is where I learned about this concept of having an inner child. I’ve referred to having a “younger Kerasa” inside me for quite a while. It wasn’t until Tiktok helped me understand that this was already a thing.
The concept of having an inner child is something that I take very seriously. It’s actually liberated me a lot more than anything else has. Whether it’s making food from one of my favorite childhood tv shows (like the Naco from Kim Possible) or wearing shorts, I do it because I remember all of the things I wasn’t allowed to do as a kid.
I force myself out of my own comfort zone most of the time. I wear red lipstick even if I don’t go out because I hated the way my teeth weren’t paper white while simultaneously having paper-thin lips. I wear tight shirts even if they show my stomach because I’m trying to show younger Kerasa there’s nothing wrong with having a protruding stomach.
I avidly avoided the color white after a certain age because it was ingrained in me that white makes me look bigger. My back fat would hang over some of my clothes and I would do anything, even wear a hoodie or cardigan in 80-degree weather, just to avoid having anyone see that I had fat. I would even wear my hair straight back in a ponytail for most of the day just to hide the fact that I had dandruff.
Almost everything I do today, I do because younger Kerasa convinced herself she couldn’t. There’s not an automatic satisfaction when doing these things but I constantly challenge myself and my own internalized biases when doing them.
Acceptance Before Love
Something else that has helped me on this self-love journey was constantly reminding myself that the end goal was never self-love, it was just self-acceptance. I wanted to be able to wake up and look in the mirror and not pick out every flaw I saw in myself. I wanted to be able to take a photo and not worry about if my double chin was showing. Most importantly, I did not want to hide my stomach anymore just because it wasn’t flat.
It wasn’t until recently when I discovered how important standing in front of a mirror and saying daily affirmations was. At the beginning, I would say “you are beautiful” and it felt weird even saying that. Now, every time I say that I imagine telling it to younger Kerasa because she was the one that needed it the most.
As cheesy as it might sound, this is actually what helped me write an article that consists of learning to love yourself quotes. These song lyrics and quotes were a small entryway into discussing this much larger topic. Apart from daily affirmations, something else that really helped me heal was creating playlists. I have about four or five different playlists that range from childhood songs to songs that I think of me singing to my younger self.
Having supportive friends who made space for not only me but for my sad feelings also helped me. It allowed me to be vulnerable. It helped me know I wasn’t alone and that I’d always have people on my side cheering me on.
As with anything in life, all the good comes with some bad. I’ve lost a lot of people in my life because I had to choose myself. This happened because over time I realized how little respect I was actually getting from people. I was called selfish because I put myself first—I’m now okay with that.
I previously stated how self-love is not this one and done thing, it’s really not. Something that I left out was the fact that there will be days where it’s hard to get out of bed and tell myself these daily affirmations. There are some days where I just sit in bed and cry all day, the most productive thing I do is brush my teeth. Self-care really does look different everyday.
It’s important to constantly remind yourself that there is no time limit to healing. No one is rushing you to get to that point of self-love other than yourself. Speaking from personal experience, running head first into yoga and journaling every day will only leave you angry about 2 weeks later when you realize you stopped doing these things.
Healing and Loving Yourself Isn’t Linear
Speaking of anger, when I first started my healing journey (aka my journey to self-love) I would avidly avoid feeling anything other than happiness. I would shame myself for reminiscing about the past whether that resulted in me being angry or sad. The best thing I’ve allowed myself to do is to feel these feelings, no matter how ugly they are.
I’m not an expert with any of this but I personally believe it’s important to have a routine that you like doing. If you can’t sit still for 10 minutes and meditate, try mindfully walking through a park and embracing nature. If you can’t stand the thought of journaling every day, try reading a book that you loved as a child. It’s going to look and feel different for everyone. Do what makes you feel like your most authentic and best self. If you need help finding a daily routine, this is a great guide for finding a magickal morning routine.
The roadmap to self-love is choosing to first love yourself, unconditionally. Be fully aware that days will look different and some will be downright horrible. As always, this is just me saying my own experiences and opinions. Many people will see this as too optimistic, others will see it as too pessimistic—I can’t please everyone.
I’ve been living my life constantly in a mode where I based my own self-worth based on how other people saw me. If I wore shorts that showed too much of my thighs, I was called a slut by an ex-boyfriend. When I didn’t wear a bra, my saggy boobs and nipples would show, leaving the female members in my family to tell me it’s unladylike.
I was too young to understand that most of the things the women in my family were telling me were a direct reflection of what their significant others and family were telling them. Whether you want to say it’s misogyny or just plain sexist, something is definitely at play here.
Let’s not even begin with the constant reminder I got from every adult telling me that swearing wasn’t what a woman should be doing. I remember one time when I got caught swearing—Catholic school things—a teacher asked me, “how would your parents feel knowing you swear this much?” I never had the guts to tell them; “seeing as I learned it from them; pretty damn proud.”
I cannot guarantee everyone the same result I had. I cannot make the bold assumption that actually anything I suggested will work for you. I do hope however that this insane amount of vulnerability has helped in some way. I hope that you see you aren’t alone in just wanting to accept or love yourself.
It’s not easy to break free from the constant body checking or comparing. It’s hard rejecting everything that has been shoved down our faces (both metaphorically and physically) from diet culture. There are so many toxic thought patterns and people I had to shed myself from to be who I am today.
The best thing is that, in five years, I’ll be a completely different person. I would’ve experienced so many things current 22-year-old Kerasa can only dream of doing. While I may not have outgrown my high school graduation dress, I surely outgrew that version of me who accepted the bare minimum from everyone. At the end of the day everything is constantly changing in life, even the way you see yourself.
If I had to summarize what self-love is to me in one word, it would be: freeing.